Marc McGovern

Marc McGovern
2005 Candidate for Cambridge School Committee

Home address:
15 Remington Street
Cambridge MA 02138

Contact information:
Tel: 617-642-1731

Send contributions to:
Committee to Elect Marc McGovern
17 Pleasant St.
Cambridge, MA 02139

Marc was born in Cambridge on December 21, 1968. He is a fourth generation Cantabrigian who attended Cambridge Public Schools. Marc attended college at both the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and Boston, graduating with honors with a BA in Sociology.

Upon graduation, Marc began working at Special Adoption Family Services as a social worker for special needs children awaiting adoption. In this role, Marc worked closely with school systems and State agencies across Massachusetts, advocating for special education services for the children he worked with, and helping families navigate complicated state bureaucracies.

In 1996 Marc married Pamela Thilo and their first son, Nicolas was born in 1997. Nicolas is a third grader at the King Open School. At this time, Marc began attending the Simmons College Graduate School of Social Work, and earned his Masters of Social Work degree in 2001. Marc's second son, William, was born in 2000 and is currently in pre-school.

Since 2001 Marc has worked at the Manville School/ Judge Baker Children's Center, a school for children with special education needs. Marc is the Clinical Coordinator for the Upper School Program, a position that expands and continues his decade-long experience as an advocate for children and families.

Marc was elected to the School Committee two years ago and is seeking his second term.

Top Priorities:
Budget transparency and allocation: The primary job of the School Committee is to oversee the School Department's budget. In my first term I was the leading voice in not only calling for greater budget transparency and re-allocation of funding from Central Administration to the schools, but I was the only member to back up these words with motions and requests for information from the Superintendent. As Budget Co-Chair I called for additional public meetings to be held to give citizens more opportunities for input. Progress was made but there is more work to be done. I will continue to lead in this area and make this issue a priority.

Early Childhood Education: Working with children and families for over a decade has taught me how important early childhood education is to a student's life-long learning. I will work to expand our early childhood programs, to support them financially and to ensure that all children have a solid educational foundation from which to grow.

Enrollment: Enrollment in CPS has been declining for many years. I will make understanding, addressing and turning around this trend a priority (see question below)

Roles of the School Committee, the Superintendent, Parents, and the Public:
The primary role of the School Committee is to oversee the budget, make sound policy decisions, and set goals for the district and to evaluate the Superintendent. The School Committee is an elected body that must be responsive, welcoming and open to public comments, suggestions and criticisms. It is this belief that led me to file a motion welcoming School Councils to come before the Committee, to call for a parent, teacher and student climate survey to be done in order to help gather input and information, and to hold numerous community meetings over my first term. Parents and children are the consumers of the Cambridge Public Schools, the Committee needs to listen, respond and act on their behalf.

The Superintendent is in charge of running the day to day operations of the school department, to ensure that all children are learning at high levels, and to make sure that all school personnel are working at the highest standard. The Superintendent must work in conjunction with the School Committee, parents and staff to create a healthy and supportive working environment that promotes learning, engagement and consistency.

Elementary School Programs and Administration:
The Cambridge Elementary Schools are making progress in an area where needed improvement was always talked about but rarely achieved. That area is educating children equally across the City. Are we there yet, no, but have we made progress, without question. Over the past two years, benchmarks have been created that finally make it possible to assess schools equally, to give guidance to all educators, and to make sure all schools are working toward a goal of excellence. Quarterly assessments that are given in each grade across the City and are graded in the same way by teachers in each school, provide teachers with immediate feedback as to how their students are achieving in reading, writing and math and make it possible for teachers to collaborate across schools like never before.

Over my first term on the Committee, I called for various initiatives to be implemented District wide so that all children are having similar experiences. One such initiative led to the implementation of an anti-bullying program in all elementary schools. After review, it became apparent that some schools were dealing with bullying seriously and others were not. I want children in all schools to be safe. I want children in all schools to learn similar skills. Schools have unique ways of teaching, and that I support, but those philosophies should not mean that some kids learn skills that others do not. It is this belief that has led me to both respect schools' individuality but to lead the charge to make sure children are educated equally across Cambridge.

High School Programs and Administration:
Two years ago when talking about CRLS we were talking about the lack of stability and being placed on academic probation. The high school has faced up to and successfully dealt with these issues since that time. The leadership at CRLS has stabilized a school that was unstable, and has moved the school from probation earlier than expected. Last year graduation rates were up and so were the number of students attending four year colleges. Is CRLS as good as it can be? No, not yet, but we are getting there. Accounts from students and teachers are that the new block scheduling is working and that students and staff are focused on achievement and success. New programs at the high school include AVID, which is geared to helping students achieve in honors and advanced placement classes, and additional help for those struggling to pass MCAS. With my colleagues on the School Committee, I am committed to closing the achievement gap and challenging students at all levels.

The High School Extension Program, although only one year old, graduated virtually all of their eligible students, increased enrollment, has brought students back into the system who had dropped out, and is providing a supportive environment for students who were struggling at CRLS. Fears of the HSEP becoming a "dumping ground" for students have gone unfounded, and the program is growing.

The Rindge School of Technical Arts (RSTA) has gone from a program that was dismantled not long ago to one that is fully accredited in all programs. Students are being offered traditional vocational programs in areas such as automotive technology, carpentry and culinary arts as well as in cutting-edge areas such as biotechnology, engineering technology, graphic arts and media applications. Enrollment in these programs has increased and more students than ever are taking advantage of what RSTA has to offer.

We need to continue to build on this success. We need to do more to support students who are struggling. We need to continue to have a safe and stable high school. We need to continue to offer challenging classes for students who are above grade-level and link them with out-of-school internships and mentoring opportunities. We need to continue supporting clubs and programs that offer our children the best extra curricular activities in the state. The High School has turned a corner and we need to continue this progress.

School Department Administration and the Budget:
Every evaluation, both public and private, has shown that proportionally Cambridge has more Central Administrative personnel than any other school system. In light of this information and as overseers of the budget, it is the responsibility of the School Committee to ask, "Why? Why do we have two or three times as many people working in a particular department compared to school systems twice our size?" We need to ask, "Are we being efficient?" and "Is this the best use of our money?"

When cuts are being made at the school level, when we can't afford full-time specialists in every school, when we can't have foreign language at earlier grades, when we can't have full-time art and music teachers in each school and when we have to cut para-professionals, it is incumbent upon us to ask these tough questions and to make these difficult choices. I want our budget to fund the greatest educational experience and opportunity possible for our students not to continue supporting an antiquated, inefficient bureaucracy.

You will hear some Committee members claim to be leading the charge on this issue, however, I am the only member who consistently requested evaluation and documentation for our staffing numbers. I am the only member to have filed a motion directing the Superintendent to make cuts in Central Administration and re-allocate those savings to the schools.

Teacher Evaluations and Teachers Contract:
Great progress has been made with our teacher evaluations and contracts. The Superintendent should be commended for his efforts in these areas. The Cambridge Public School System now has a teacher evaluation system that is designed to help teachers improve their craft, to identify areas of strength and needed growth and to assess performance in a way like never before. The new teacher evaluations are not punitive, but are a tool for improvement and in the rare case of continued deficiencies, allow for the removal of those teachers who are not functioning at the highest standard.

When other school systems saw massive reductions in the number of teachers, reduction in their benefits and salaries and saw teacher strikes, Cambridge had settled on a contract that was beneficial to both parties and ensured the highest standard of teacher support and performance. This contract was a positive achievement for both the system and the CTA.

State/Federal Role in Local Education:
The No Child Left Behind law is dismantling public education. This law is punitive and lacks sound educational foundation and justification. Schools are labeled "failing" without being given the support they need to succeed. However, the MCAS test is a reality that we must deal with: it is a "one-size-fits-all" test when students are not "one-size-fits-all" learners and it unfairly targets special needs children, ESL students, lower income communities, and student new to CPS.

The state and federal government need to increase financial support to local communities for education. They need to better fund programs for special needs students and for early childhood education.

Declining Enrollment:
Enrollment in the Cambridge Public Schools has been steadily declining. When this happens the district loses diversity, funding, family input and faces the possibility of school closures. Cambridge has a district enrollment of approximately 6,500 students and there are approximately 1,500 school age children in the city attending private, charter or parochial schools. That is roughly 20-25% of school age children attending schools other then public. That is a large number.

Although high housing prices play a role in this decline, it is too simplistic to say real estate is the only cause. The fact is, we don't know exactly why people are leaving or not choosing CPS. That is why I will call for better and more detailed exit surveys to be done when families leave the system. In addition, I will call for the Superintendent to reach out to those families who live in Cambridge but are not enrolling their children in public school, so we can better understand their choices. I will call for a five-year strategic plan and call for a Blue-Ribbon Committee of educators, parents, business and community leaders to develop a strategy to turn the enrollment decline around and offer recommendations to rebuild our school population. Healthy, vibrant public schools are the centerpiece of a strong, diverse, competitive and economically dynamic city. We must grow our public schools to achieve this goal.

Charter Schools:
The statement that charter schools are public schools is inaccurate. They hand-pick their students, they don't have to meet the same standards as public schools, and they are not accountable to the public. Our job on the School Committee is to work with the Superintendent to make sure that our public schools are the best option for the largest number of students. We need to be better. We need to be a better choice. I don't blame any parent for seeking other options for their child's education if they are dissatisfied with the public schools. Parents want what is best for their children. Cambridge Public Schools need to be what's best. We need to be better so that charter schools aren't needed in Cambridge.

As the only current School Committee member to work in a school setting I bring a unique and valuable perspective to the Committee. On a daily basis I see the hard work and collaboration on the part of teachers, students and parents. As a social worker I understand the importance of process, communication, support, and advocacy, all skills that are important for any public official. As a life-long Cantabrigian I understand how our city functions, I understand its history, I understand its communities and I am dedicated to its success.

In my first term on the Committee I didn't sit back and let others do the heavy lifting. I raised challenging and difficult issues. I applauded our accomplishments but I critiqued our shortcomings. I asked questions that led to greater transparency and accountability and was not afraid to work closely with all of my colleagues but to stand alone when necessary. That is what an elected leader is supposed to do. I hope that I have earned your #1 vote on November 8th and I hope to return to the Committee because there is more work to do on behalf of our children, our families and our community.

Page last updated July 01, 2007 Cambridge Candidates